Dodge Omni

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Dodge Omni
1990 Dodge Omni.JPG
1990 Dodge Omni
Overview
ManufacturerChrysler Corporation
American Motors (1985-1987)
Also calledPlymouth Horizon
Plymouth Expo (Canada)[1]
ProductionDecember 5, 1977–February 2, 1990
Model years1978–1990
AssemblyBelvidere, Illinois (1977–1990)
Kenosha, Wisconsin (1985–1988)
Body and chassis
ClassSubcompact
Body style5-door hatchback
LayoutTransverse front-engine, front-wheel drive
PlatformL-body
RelatedChrysler Horizon
Dodge Charger
Dodge Omni 024
Dodge Rampage
Plymouth Horizon TC3
Plymouth Scamp
Plymouth Turismo
Shelby GLHS
Simca-Talbot Horizon
Powertrain
Engine
Transmission4-speed Volkswagen manual
5-speed Chrysler manual
3-speed A404 automatic
3-speed A413 automatic
Dimensions
Wheelbase99.2 in (2,520 mm)[2]
Length163.2 in (4,145 mm)[2]
Width66.2 in (1,681 mm)[2]
Height53.4 in (1,356 mm)[2]
Curb weight2,137 lb (969 kg)[2]
Chronology
SuccessorDodge Shadow
Plymouth Sundance

The Dodge Omni (also known as the Plymouth Horizon) are subcompact cars that were produced by Chrysler Corporation from the 1978 to 1990 model years.[3] The first front-wheel drive economy cars assembled in the United States, the Omni and Horizon were also the first front-wheel drive vehicles developed by Chrysler.[4]

The first (and only) world car designed by Chrysler, the model line originated from a design of Chrysler Europe (who developed the namesake Chrysler Horizon). While visually similar, the American Omni/Horizon would have extensive functional differences from its European counterpart.

From 1977 to 1990, Chrysler produced the Omni and Horizon at its Belvidere Assembly Plant facility (Belvidere, Illinois); from 1985 to 1988, the model line was license-built by American Motors Corporation (AMC) at its facility in Kenosha, Wisconsin. From 1987 to 1990, the model line was marketed alongside its successor, following the introduction of the Dodge Shadow/Plymouth Sundance hatchback sedan.

Development[edit]

1978 Chrysler Horizon GL (Europe)

The development of the Dodge Omni and Plymouth Horizon began life in 1975. In 1974, Chrysler president Lynn Townsend sent an American management team to Chrysler Europe to find a suitable small-car design to market in the United States, rejecting a front-wheel drive compact (codenamed C6) as unsuitable to produced (the design was produced in Europe as the Chrysler Alpine).[5] At the end of 1974, Chrysler Europe approved the final clay model design of a shorter wheelbase version (codenamed C2) as a subcompact in the 1.3 L engine range.[6]

Along with offering an updated competitor to the Volkswagen Golf, the C2 offered multinational Chrysler Europe a singular replacement for both the Simca 1100 and the Hillman Avenger.[6] Following the 1975 retirement of Townsend, Chrysler management decided to develop a version of the C2 project for the American market, working in tandem with Chrysler Europe. While one American design team sought to redevelop the American model line as a coupe, designers ultimately retained the five-door hatchback, favoring its European-style configuration.[6]

At the time, Chrysler Europe was splitting design and engineering work between France (chassis, powertrain, and manufacturing) and the United Kingdom (body design and development).[6] Alongside component design for European use, American designers developed the C2 project to comply with local standards.[6]

As part of the dire financial situation of its parent company, Chrysler Europe was sold to PSA Peugeot Citroen in August 1978. As part of the sale, Peugeot phased out the Chrysler brand in Europe was phased out in favor of a revived Talbot marque, with the Horizon continuing production nearly unchanged through 1987.[7] The sale of the company ended further design work on the C2 project, including a four-door sedan and a shorter-length three-door hatchback.[6]

Transition to American design[edit]

During the mid-1970s, Chrysler held no presence of its own in the subcompact automobile segment, instead of supplying the American market with the Dodge/Plymouth Colt (captive imports of the Mitsubishi Galant). At the time, the front-wheel drive layout was largely reserved for lower-volume luxury cars (including the Cadillac Eldorado and Oldsmobile Toronado); only the Volkswagen Rabbit and Honda Accord had produced front-wheel drive in the subcompact segment competitively. To further develop the design for the American market, Chrysler Corporation purchased nearly 100 Volkswagen Rabbits for the purposes of reverse engineering in the United States.[5]

At the end of 1977, the C2 project entered production in both Europe and North America, with Chrysler Europe sharing the Horizon nameplate (as the Chrysler-Simca Horizon) with the American Plymouth division. While Chrysler had trailed the AMC Gremlin, Ford Pinto, and Chevrolet Vega to market by eight years, the $2,500 ($9800 in 2019 dollars) Omni/Horizon would gain an extensive headstart on its American competitors (which were released in 1981 and 1982) in the adoption of front-wheel drive and transverse-mount powertrains.

Following the 1978 sale of Chrysler Europe, Chrysler Corporation retained the design rights to its version of the C2 project, continuing production in Illinois.

Model overview[edit]

The Dodge Omni and Plymouth Horizon are five-door hatchbacks sold in North America. Introduced in January 1978, the model line was developed in tandem with Chrysler Europe, leading to the namesake Chrysler Horizon. Chrysler also sold multiple variants of the model line derived from the same chassis, including 2+2 coupes and coupe utility pickup trucks.

Produced nearly unchanged from the 1978 to the 1990 model years, the model line derives its body layout loosely from the Volkswagen Rabbit five-door (with initial versions using a Volkswagen-designed engine).[8]

Chassis[edit]

1990 Plymouth Horizon

The Dodge Omni and Plymouth Horizon use the front-wheel drive Chrysler L platform on a 99.2-inch wheelbase (shared with its European namesake). Initially designed by Chrysler Europe, Chrysler Corporation made substantial changes to the suspension design for the American market. In contrast to the Chrysler Horizon, which has a front torsion bar suspension, the model line uses front MacPherson struts.[5][6] While the rear suspension shares a semi-independent layout (coil springs, rear trailing arms), the Omni/Horizon was developed with its own suspension tuning.[6]

The model line is equipped with power-assisted front disc brakes and rear drum brakes and a rack and pinion steering system.

Powertrain[edit]

While sharing a transverse engine layout, the Dodge Omni and Plymouth Horizon diverge furthest from the Chrysler Horizon in its engine offerings. For the North American market, Chrysler adopted a 75 hp (56 kW; 76 PS) 1.7 L I4, sourced from Volkswagen in the United States (with a Chrysler-designed engine head).[5][9][10] At the time, Chrysler did not have capability to supply 4-cylinder engines in the United States (of any type), and the Simca-designed 1.1 to 1.4 L engines were deemed insufficient in terms of output.[9] The 1.7 L engine was paired with a 4-speed manual transmission or a 3-speed automatic.

For 1981, the Omni/Horizon received the 84 hp (63 kW; 85 PS) 2.2 L I4 from the Chrysler K-cars as an option. For 1983, Chrysler introduced a Peugeot-supplied 62 hp (46 kW; 63 PS) 1.6 L I4 as a new base engine (requiring only an alternator to be added by Chrysler[10]); the engine was paired with a manual transmission and the deletion of air conditioning. For 1987, the 1.6 L engine was dropped, with the 2.2 L I4 becoming the standard engine offering; the 2.2 L engine received fuel injection for 1988.[5] The 2.2 L engine was paired to a 5-speed manual transmission or a 3-speed automatic.

1978-1990 Dodge Omni/Plymouth Horizon Powertrain Details[10]
Engine name Engine configuration Production Output Notes
Horsepower Torque
Volkswagen EA827 I4 1.7 L (105 cu in) SOHC I4 1978-1983 1978: 75 hp (56 kW; 76 PS)

1980: 68 hp (51 kW; 69 PS)[11][12]

1983: 63 hp (47 kW; 64 PS)

1978: 90 hp (67 kW; 91 PS)

1980: 83 lb⋅ft (113 N⋅m)

1983: 88 lb⋅ft (119 N⋅m)

Engine block built by Volkswagen with Chrysler-designed engine heads and final assembly

Volkswagen 4-speed manual; Chrysler A404 3-speed automatic

Peugeot/Simca 6J I4 1.6 L (97 cu in) OHV I4 1983-1986 62 hp (46 kW; 63 PS) 85 lb⋅ft (115 N⋅m) Simca-designed engine supplied by Peugeot; alternator added by Chrysler

4/5-speed manual only

Chrysler K I4 2.2 L (135 cu in) SOHC I4 1981-1990 1981: 84 hp (63 kW; 85 PS)

1986: 96 hp (72 kW; 97 PS)

1988: 93 hp (69 kW; 94 PS)

1981: 111 lb⋅ft (150 N⋅m)[13]

1986: 119 lb⋅ft (161 N⋅m)

1988: 122 lb⋅ft (165 N⋅m)

Shared with Chrysler K cars (and later minivans)

4/5-speed manual; Chrysler A413 3-speed automatic

Chrysler K High Output I4 1984-1985 110 hp (82 kW; 112 PS) 129 lb⋅ft (175 N⋅m) Dodge Omni GLH (naturally-aspirated); shared with Dodge Shelby Charger

5-speed manual only

Chrysler K Turbo I I4 2.2 L (135 cu in) SOHC I4

single turbocharger

1985-1986 GLH-T: 156 hp (116 kW; 158 PS)

GLHS: 128 hp (95 kW; 130 PS)

GLH-T: 170 lb⋅ft (230 N⋅m)

GLHS: 175 hp (130 kW; 177 PS)

Dodge Omni GLH-T, GLH-S (turbocharged)

5-speed manual only

Body[edit]

1981 Dodge Omni
1986-1989 Dodge Omni

While sharing a visually similar appearance with its Chrysler Europe counterpart, the Omni/Horizon shares almost no body commonality. Along with the American requirement of sealed-beam headlamps, 5-mph bumpers, the body stampings are not shared between the two model line; for example, the joint between the roof and A-pillar on the American model line is welded together (on the European version, it is a single stamping).[6] On the Omni/Horizon, the rear door windows do not roll down completely; the corresponding version of the Chrysler Horizon does (through a higher-cost, more complex design).[6]

With the exception of grilles, taillamps, and model badging, the Dodge Omni and Plymouth Horizon were largely indistinguishable from one another. For 1984, the model line underwent a minor revision.[14][5] Distinguished by revised exterior badging, the revision phased out a large degree of chrome exterior trim in favor of black-painted trim. The interior received a redesigned dashboard (a Rallye dashboard with full instrumentation was introduced as an option[5]) and new seats; a 5-speed manual transmission became standard.[5] For 1987, to streamline production, all vehicles received an instrument panel with tachometer, oil pressure, and voltmeter gauges.[5]

For 1990, the Omni and Horizon underwent several minor revisions. To comply with federal passive-restraint regulations, a driver-side airbag was added (along with rear-seat outboard shoulder belts). The dashboard saw further revision, as the climate controls were relocated to the center of the dashboard, taking the place of the radio (which took the place of the ashtray).[5] The round sideview mirrors used since 1978 were replaced by enlarged units (inherited from the Diplomat/Gran Fury sedans)

Trim[edit]

In contrast to many Chrysler model lines, the Dodge Omni and Plymouth Horizon were largely sold across a single trim level. For 1981 and 1982, Chrysler introduced a "Miser" version; this lightly-equipped version was developed to increase fuel economy, including an overdrive manual transmission.[5][11]

For 1984, the SE (Sport Edition) option was introduced, which consisted of two-tone exterior paint.[5] From 1984 to 1986, the Carroll Shelby Omni GLH, GLH-T, and GLHS (see below) were high-performance turbocharged versions of the Omni hatchback.

For 1987, the America edition of the Omni was introduced. To offer the vehicle as the lowest-price American-assembled subcompact, Chrysler reduced the number of options and features available for the version while maintaining build quality.[5]

Production[edit]

From 1977 to 1990, Chrysler Corporation assembled the Omni and Horizon hatchbacks at Belvidere Assembly Plant (Belvidere, Illinois); the model line was assembled alongside the Dodge Omni 024, Plymouth Horizon TC3, Dodge Charger, Plymouth Turismo, Dodge Rampage, and Plymouth Scamp.

In 1985, Chrysler entered an agreement with American Motors Corporation (AMC) to produce Chrysler vehicles at its Kenosha, Wisconsin facility (supplementing AMC production of Renault-badged vehicles). Alongside licensed production of the M-body sedans (Dodge Diplomat/Plymouth Gran Fury/Chrysler Fifth Avenue), AMC produced the Dodge Omni and Plymouth Horizon hatchbacks.

Variants[edit]

Several variants of the platform appeared later, including a three-door hatchback known as the Dodge 024/Plymouth TC3, and briefly a small car-like truck under the Dodge Rampage/Plymouth Scamp name.

The 024 and TC3 were marketed as sporty cars, although the 77–94 hp (57–70 kW) four-cylinder engines were not powerful and the coupés weighed more than the hatchbacks.[12] The TC3 was renamed the Plymouth Turismo, and the 024 the Dodge Charger in 1983. The last 1,000 Dodge Chargers were modified by Carroll Shelby into Shelby GLHSs.

Dodge Omni 024/Dodge Charger[edit]

1984-1987 Dodge Charger

For 1979, Chrysler introduced a hatchback coupe version of the Omni/Horizon, named the Dodge Omni 024 and Plymouth Horizon TC3. Using an L-body chassis (shortened to a 96.6-inch wheelbase), the 024/TC3 coupes shared no external bodywork with the five-door hatchbacks. Sharing the same powertrain as the Omni and Horizon, the coupes were largely designed for appearance over performance. After the 1982 model year, the 024/TC3 were discontinued.

For 1982, the Dodge Charger and Plymouth Turismo were introduced as gradual replacements for the 024/TC3. While again receiving the same powertrain offerings as the five-door hatchbacks, the 2.2 L high-output engine was added to create the Dodge Shelby Charger/Plymouth Turismo Duster. For 1984, the coupes received updated exterior styling (distinguished by a quad-headlamp front fascia). For 1985 and 1986, the Shelby Charger adopted the 146 hp (109 kW; 148 PS) engine of the Omni GLH-T.

Following the 1987 model year, the Dodge Charger/Plymouth Turismo were replaced by the Dodge Shadow/Plymouth Sundance; Dodge would not again remarket a Charger until the 2005 model year. The final 1000 Dodge Shelby Chargers were built as Shelby Charger GLHS vehicles with a 175 hp (130 kW; 177 PS) 2.2 L Turbo II engine, upgraded transmission, brakes, and suspension, and the deletion of all Dodge badging.

Dodge Rampage/Plymouth Scamp[edit]

1983 Dodge Rampage

For 1982, Chrysler introduced a coupe utility pickup derived from the L-body chassis, named the Dodge Rampage. The first front-wheel drive American pickup truck, the Rampage extended the Dodge Omni chassis to a 104.2-inch wheelbase.[15] To compete with the payload of the larger El Camino, Chrysler redesigned the rear frame and suspension of the L-body for the Rampage, with the vehicle receiving a leaf-sprung rear axle.[15]

For 1983. the Plymouth Scamp was introduced alongside the Dodge Rampage, distinguished primarily by badging and trim; the Scamp was offered only for 1983. For 1984, the Rampage received the quad-headlight front fascia of the Dodge Charger and block-letter badging.

Dodge Omni GLH[edit]

1985 Dodge Omni GLH-T
1986 Shelby GLHS

The highest-performance Dodge Omni was the 1984-1986 Omni GLH, modified by Carroll Shelby. Following the rejection of "Coyote" by Chrysler, the initials GLH ("Goes Like Hell", the choice of Carroll Shelby) was used instead.[16][17]

For 1984, the Omni GLH adopted many of the modifications of the 1983 Shelby Charger, including its 110 hp (82 kW; 112 PS) 2.2 L "high-output" I4, stiffer suspension, larger brakes and wider tires.[18] For 1985 and 1986, Shelby offered the GLH with an optional 146 hp (109 kW; 148 PS) 2.2 L Turbo I I4 (GLH-T); 1986 vehicles are largely distinguished by their center brake light.[18]

Shelby Automobiles purchased the final 500 1986 GLH-T (all in black) to construct the Shelby GLHS ("Goes Like Hell S'more").[17][18] Modified by the company in California, the GLHS vehicles were legally sold as Shelbys. The Turbo I engine underwent extensive modification, adopting multiple components of what would become the Turbo II engine introduced for 1987. Along with an intercooler, the engine received a larger turbocharger and throttle body, tuned intake and exhaust manifolds, a new wiring harness, and a new radiator and engine fan (among other engine modifications). The suspension was upgraded further, receiving stiffer springs, and adjustable Koni struts and shocks, along with larger tires mounted on Shelby-designed wheels. In contrast to the red pinstripes of the GLH/GLH-T, the GLHS used silver pinstripes and badging; a "Shelby" decal was added to the windshield and a large GLHS decal was added to the driver-side C-pillar (the passenger-side C-pillar was occupied by the gas cap door).

Legacy[edit]

1978 Dodge Omni at the The Henry Ford

At the time of its 1978 launch, the Omni and Horizon would play a significant role in the survival of Chrysler Corporation. While initially struggling against rebounding sales of larger vehicles, nearly 200,000 examples of the combined model line were sold in the first model year.[5] In contrast to most Chrysler model lines, the Plymouth Horizon would outsell the Dodge Omni (some years, by a significant margin), with the exception of the final 1989 and 1990 model years.

As the Omni/Horizon became the best-selling Chrysler model line between 1978 and 1980,[11] it would play a major role in Chrysler securing government funding in 1979. The model line was evidence that Chrysler was attempting to develop more fuel-efficient vehicles competitive with automakers around the world. Along with ensuring the continued survival of the company, the $1.5 billion loans allowed Chrysler to finish the development of its compact/mid-size K-Car program and its minivans, two of its most profitable model lines during the 1980s.

Awards[edit]

Following its launch, the Dodge Omni was awarded the 1978 Motor Trend Car of the Year Award. In a similar fashion, the 1978 Chrysler Horizon was voted European Car of the Year for 1979.

Criticism[edit]

Shortly after their introduction, Consumer Reports tested the Omni and Horizon and reported that it lost control in hard maneuvering. As front-wheel-drive cars were still considered a new idea in the American automotive industry, the allegation received extensive mainstream coverage, including a piece in Time magazine.[19] Other auto automotive media reported no problems and described the test did not approximate real-world driving conditions.[12]

In response, Chrysler made modifications that included a steering damper and a lighter-weight steering wheel.

Production numbers[edit]

Year Omni Horizon
1978 81,611 106,772
1979 84,093 99,048
1980 76,505 94,740
1981 72,551 94,810
1982 46.390 42,303
1983 53,972 57,201
1984 79,288 90,581
1985 83,101 97,144
1986 80,434 92,115
1987 109,831 128,159
1988 64,740 66,997
1989 46,239 45,341
1990 16,733 16,397

Production stopped by February 2, 1990 with a final total production number of 1,927,096. These figures include the Omni and Horizon five-door hatchback sold in North America, excluding any other L-body variants or production/sales outside of North America.[20][21]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ www.curbsideclassic.com Retrieved 23 April 2018
  2. ^ a b c d e "1978 Dodge Omni brochure". oldcarbrochures.com. December 1977. Retrieved 16 November 2019.
  3. ^ Mastrostefano, Raffaele, ed. (1985). Quattroruote: Tutte le Auto del Mondo 1985 (in Italian). Milano: Editoriale Domus. p. 249. ISBN 88-7212-012-8.
  4. ^ "Dodge Omni, Plymouth Horizon, and Friends". web.archive.org. 2020-03-29. Retrieved 2021-04-02.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "Dodge Omni, Plymouth Horizon, and Friends". web.archive.org. 2020-03-29. Retrieved 2021-04-02.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Creating the Chrysler Horizon: the Chrysler Europe Design Team speaks". web.archive.org. 2020-04-21. Retrieved 2021-04-02.
  7. ^ "Development of the Chrysler - Talbot - Simca Horizon". =Rootes-chrysler.co.uk. Retrieved 12 January 2013.
  8. ^ Vance, Bill (28 April 2006). "Motoring Memories: Dodge Omni/Plymouth Horizon, 1978-1990". autos canada. Retrieved 12 January 2013.
  9. ^ a b "Chrysler Horizon and Simca 1100". web.archive.org. 2019-12-20. Retrieved 2021-04-03.
  10. ^ a b c "Dodge Omni and Plymouth Horizon (and Talbot Horizon) engines". web.archive.org. 2020-09-19. Retrieved 2021-04-03.
  11. ^ a b c Hogg, Tony (ed.). "1981 Buyer's Guide". Road & Track's Road Test Annual & Buyer's Guide 1981 (January–February 1981): 93.
  12. ^ a b c R&T Buyer's Guide 1979, p. 93
  13. ^ "Mopar (Dodge/Plymouth/Chrysler) 2.2 liter engine - TBI or carbureted". web.archive.org. 2020-08-06. Retrieved 2021-04-03.
  14. ^ Mastrostefano, Raffaele, ed. (1985). Quattroruote: Tutte le Auto del Mondo 1985 (in Italian). Milano: Editoriale Domus. p. 249. ISBN 88-7212-012-8.
  15. ^ a b "Plymouth Scamp and Dodge Rampage: economy car based pickups". Allpar Forums. Retrieved 2021-04-04.
  16. ^ Griffey, Evan (2007). "Cool Cars We Miss". MSN. Archived from the original on 2007-12-07. Retrieved 2007-12-11.
  17. ^ a b Sessler, Peter C. (2001). Dodge and Plymouth Muscle Car 1964-2000. Motorbooks. p. 196. ISBN 9780760308011. Retrieved 2015-11-03.
  18. ^ a b c "The Dodge Omni GLH, Dodge Omni GLHS, and Dodge Charger GLH-S". web.archive.org. 2020-04-06. Retrieved 2021-04-04.
  19. ^ "Storm over Omni-Horizon". Time. 26 June 1978. Retrieved 12 January 2013.
  20. ^ "Plymouth U.S. Model Year Production Figures, 1946-2001". Allpar Forums. Retrieved 2021-04-03.
  21. ^ "Dodge Cars and Production Numbers, US". Allpar Forums. Retrieved 2021-04-03.

External links[edit]